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Alex Newell Will Provide

January 16, 2018 by Jake Sokoloff
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Alex Newell (Photographed by Jenny Anderson)

When Alex Newell was 15, he desperately wanted to play Asaka, Mother of the Earth, in a community theater production of “Once On This Island.” The role is typically played by a woman, and in this case, his best friend landed the part. But Newell didn’t give up hope, and now, he’s making his Broadway debut as the goddess in the revival. “I knew it was going to happen,” Newell says with an enviable confidence. “My roles were Effie [in “Dreamgirls”] or Asaka. This one just came first. Effie is coming later.”

Newell discovered his passion for performing at an early age singing in churches, and he never gave up despite the adversity and rejection he faced. As a young person exploring his identity, Newell found early on that the industry didn’t know where he fit. “I auditioned for every college’s BFA musical-theater program and got rejected from every one,” he recalls.

Then he landed “The Glee Project,” the reality casting series for the popular musical TV show. While he didn’t win, he ended up on “Glee,” creating the role of transgender student Unique Adams and catapulting into the spotlight. However, Newell never set out to be a pioneer. “I don’t look for it,” he says. “All I want to do is walk around in a heel and sing pretty.”

But now the young star wants to use his platform to make a difference by breaking down stereotypes. “There’s someone just like me that’s not in my position,” he says. “I’m a gay, black, plus-sized male, so I have three communities I have to represent. I could be selfish and just do this for my paycheck, but I would never feel fulfilled at the end of the day.”

Grooming by Dana Arcidy

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